Iceland and allies block progressive marine protection measures at CBD SBSTTA 10

Date: February 11, 2005

Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and Brazil expressed dismay that action on marine issues appeared to take a step backwards at CBD SBSTTA 10. Deep Sea Conservation Coalition member Greenpeace, attending the meeting, sought to strengthen a number of draft goals and targets designed to help governments reduce and halt the loss of marine and coastal biodiversity by 2010.

Greenpeace political advisor, Nathalie Rey said “On the one hand, it was encouraging to see that a number of countries were willing to stand strong on progressive and far-reaching measures for greater protection of the world’s oceans. On the other, it is a pity that the economic short-sightedness of a handful of countries hinders timely action to help avert the crisis facing our seas and oceans.” Although a number of countries (Germany, Sweden, Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, Gambia and Fiji) argued that areas beyond national jurisdiction should be expressly referred to, Iceland, the US and Canada blocked any specific reference to either the high seas or bottom trawling in the draft targets agreed in Bangkok (1). These will be forwarded to the Conference of Parties (COP) in May 2006 for final agreement. The targets currently provide that at least 10% of the world’s marine and coastal ecological regions should be effectively conserved by 2010 – Greenpeace argued that at least 40% should be conserved over the longer-term. Target 1.2 recommends that particularly vulnerable marine and coastal habitats and ecosystems, such as tropical and cold water coral reefs, seamounts, mangroves, seagrasses and other vulnerable ecosystems be effectively protected. Although the CBD has committed to the establishment of a global network of marine protected areas by 2012, deep sea ecosystems in international waters require immediate and comprehensive action due to the high levels of endemism and fragility of ecosystems associated with underwater mountains (seamounts). “There is probably no such thing as an economically viable deep-water fishery that is sustainable… We must consider deep-sea stocks as non-renewable resources.” Callum Roberts, University of York, February 2002. Bottom trawling for deep-sea fish species on the high seas is not only causing the collapse of target populations but is also severely damaging the vulnerable ecosystems on seamounts – many deep-sea fish species such as orange roughy, are found around seamounts. Furthermore, it is estimated that the deep seas are home to millions of species, many of which are being destroyed before they have even been discovered. To comprehensively protect deep-sea biodiversity in international waters, a “time out” is needed to make proper scientific assessments of deep-sea ecosystems and allow the space to develop more permanent policy solutions based on sound science to protect them. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition is calling on the United Nations General Assembly to pass a resolution establishing a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.

Notes: (1) In 1995, the Convention on Biological Diversity CBD agreed to a work programme on marine and coastal biodiversity called the Jakarta Mandate. However, this Programme of Work did not include many time-bound or quantitative targets. With the agreement in 2002 by governments to try to reduce and halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010, they realised that a number of additional targets and goals on marine and coastal biodiversity were necessary to achieve this 2010 goal. This was one of the topics on the agenda of the 10th Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) to the CBD. SBSTTA is a body, which provides advice to governments on the implementation of the CBD and its respective decisions and programmes of work.

Contact:Nathalie Rey, Greenpeace Political and Business Unit, Tel: +31 20 7182094